The Temples & Shrines of Kyoto

The Most beautiful temples in Kyoto

Kyoto was the capital of Japan for more than a thousand years and therefore has a very significant historical importance for Japan. The emperors and shoguns were the rulers of Japan and Kyoto at the time and they built majestic palaces and temples to demonstrate their power. Buddhism was of course the prevalent religion at the time and the biggest and most grandiose of Buddhist temples were thus built in the city of Kyoto. The city of Kyoto holds more than 1600 Temples and shrines so deciding which ones to visit can be a quite daunting task. You would have to stay in Kyoto for quite some time to visit all of them. If you only have a week (or even less) in Kyoto you'll only be able to see a certain amount of these. 

We visited about 30 temples and shrines during our stay. We want to help you out so here's the list of temples that we felt were the most beautiful and worthy of a visit.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Situated by the Kyoto mountains you'll find this incredible Buddhist temple. The site is almost like a small village and consists of several small buildings, a lovely footpath along the mountain and a beautiful temple at the top with a huge wooden deck that provides an amazing view of Kyoto. This is an exceptional place to snap some photos and suck in the beauty of Kyoto. 

Kenninji Temple

The oldest zen temple in Kyoto. Walk inside of this temple to experience how the zen Buddhist monks lived. Walk along the wooden corridors and see the small calming zen gardens. You'll also see art pieces and a separate building has an incredible painted ceiling depicting a huge Japanese dragon.

Kodaiji Temple

This shrine is known for its incredible gardens. Built by a dead shoguns wife to commemorate her dead husband, this garden is breathtaking. The garden is full of flowers, trees, ponds and small wooden bridges that will immediately soothe your mind. The garden was created by one of the most well known garden planners at the time, so everything in the garden is picture-perfect.

Ryōan-ji Temple

This is one of the most famous temples in Kyoto. We were lucky to get a free tour by a couple of Japanese school kids who wanted to practice their English so we got the full story of the temple and its history. The temple is especially known for its very large rock garden that fills the yard. To this day it is still not fully known what the rocks in the garden represent, but sit down, gaze at the garden and let your imagination go wild. There's something magical about this place.

Kinkaku-ji Temple / Golden Pavilion Temple

This may very well be the most visited temple in Kyoto. The golden temple is covered in gold leafs and surrounded by a stunning garden and pond. This was truly a magnificent experience, but come early as there are an ungodly amount of tourists here, especially around cherry blossom season.

Nijō Castle

This castle is a must-see. Ninju castle gives you an idea of how emperors and shoguns lived in their days. Walk around the huge gardens like the emperor would do in his time. This walled castle was one of Ollie's favourites as it really gave you a great history lesson and there was so much to see.

Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine

This shrine is known for its endless amount of orange gates that lead up the mountain. These gates lead you through the forest and is a fun and memorable experience. Definitely worth a visit.

Honen-in Temple

This temple is known as one of the most beautiful temples in Kyoto due to its simplicity. When entering Honen-in you will walk between two sandy mounds that are believed to purify you before entering the temple. You'll then walk across a beautiful bridge that takes you to the garden of the temple. This temple should definitely be on the list of temples to visit.

Please let us know which temples were your favourites during your stay!.